Love-locks – True love or vandalism?

No-one is quite sure how the idea of lovelocks started. Some quote a Serbian love story that goes back to World War I. Others say the Chinese started it whilst others point to Italian author Federico Moccia’s book “Ho voglia di te” (I love you), published in 2006. How ever they started, lovelocks are now causing a headache for city councils worldwide with many threatening to prosecute. So is this true love, or vandalism?

Love is everlasting - padlocked lovelocks on a Paris bridge

Everlasting love – padlocked lovelocks on a Paris bridge

In simple terms a love-lock is a padlock inscribed, or even engraved, with the names of two sweethearts. The couple fastens the padlock to a bridge and then throws the key into the river to symbolize their unbreakable love. A variation on the idea is to use a chain and padlock on a gate, fence or doorway where the chain represents everlasting love. And now padlocks are popping up all over the world. From Seoul to Sydney, Paris to Portland and Riga to Rome.

Lovelocks locked onto Prague's Charles Bridge

Lovelocks attached to Prague’s Charles Bridge

In Italy, there are two conflicting explanations for the proliferation of lovelocks in the last few years. One theory says that lovelocks originated in Florence where students from the San Giorgio Academy of Health locked their padlocks onto the Ponte Vecchio bridge after graduation.

Florence's famous Ponte Vecchio bridge with shops across it

Florence’s famous Ponte Vecchio bridge

The other blames Moccia’s book, especially after it was turned into a film starring popular Italian actors Riccardo Scarmarcio and Laura Chiatti. Based in and around Rome, the book and film see the two sealing their love with a padlock fastened to a lamp post on Ponte Milvio which has now become the setting for romantic pilgrims and lovers to demonstrate their true love.

Riccardo Scarmarcio and Laura Chiatti on Ponte Milvio, Rome in a still from Ho voglia di te (I love you)

Ho voglia di te (I love you) – Riccardo Scarmarcio and Laura Chiatti on Ponte Milvio, Rome

The film also used two songs by pop singer Tiziano Ferro, who filmed scenes on Ponte Milvio for his video to “Ti scatterò una foto”. Tiziano’s lovesick teenage fans needed little encouragement to take the song, film and love locks to their hearts and so the idea grew!

Tiziano Ferro - a still from the video from "Ti scatterò una foto" on Ponte Milvio bridge in Rome

Tiziano Ferro – a still from the video from “Ti scatterò una foto” on Ponte Milvio bridge in Rome

Lovelocks are popping up all over Italy these days. They still adorn the Ponte Vecchio, attached to the railings around the statue of Florentine sculptor Benvenuto Cellini, even though the Renaissance man was hardly famous for being monogamous or a shining example of everlasting love!

Bust of Benvenuto Cellini on Florence's Ponte Vecchio bridge

Statue of Benvenuto Cellini on Florence’s Ponte Vecchio bridge

His most famous work, a bronze of Perseus proudly parading the snake-haired head of Medusa while her bloodied body lies at his feet, is displayed round the corner in the Loggia dei Lanzi and does little to encourage the course of true love either but that doesn’t stop love-locks appearing! Even more are attached to the roadside chains along the River Arno near the Uffizzi gallery.

Benvenuto Cellini's bronze statue of Perseus in the Loggia dei Lanzi, Piazza dei Signoria, Florence

Artist Benvenuto Cellini’s bronze statue of Perseus in the Loggia dei Lanzi, Piazza dei Signoria, Florence

The same thing happens in Verona, although the padlocks are attached either to a gate in the courtyard to Giulietta’s house, of Romeo and Juliet fame, or to one of the many bridges across the River Adige.

Love locked gates at Giulietta's house, Verona

Lovelock padlocked onto gates at Giulietta’s house, Verona, Italy

And Venice, the city of romance, has thousands of padlocks on its hundreds of bridges, although locals and the council regularly clear them off. Indeed the problem has become so serious that the council spent several days last summer adding anti-lovelock measures to the famous wooden Accademia across the Grand Canal. And lovers leaving lovelocks can, I believe, now face a fine of around €80 if caught so if in doubt, don’t leave your love locked to a bridge in Venice!

Lovelocks litter the wooden Accademia bridge spanning the Grand Canal, Venice

Lovelocks litter the wooden Accademia bridge spanning the Grand Canal in Venice

Padlocks can also be seen on a fence of a waterwheel in the River Mincio at picture postcard perfect Valeggio sul Mincio near Lake Garda.

Lovelocks, Valeggio su Mincio, Lake Garda

Locklocks attached to a waterwheel cage in Valeggio su Mincio, Lake Garda

More still rust slowly to match Cefalù’s Sicillian seaside sunset.

Love locks on the quayside at Cefalù, northern Sicily

Love locks on the quayside at Cefalù beach, Sicily

That’s not to mention the lovelocks in Rome, Bologna, Turin, Bolzano and along the Via Dell’Amore path connecting Manarola and Riomaggiore on the beautiful Cinque Terre coastline. It seems that in Italy love really is everywhere!

Lovelocks locked onto a pedestrian barrier along the Arno, Florence

Lovelocks along the Arno, Florence

But the padlocks are so popular now that many councils are beginning to clamp down on the practice considering them to be vandalism of old, historical bridges. Others see them as litter whilst council engineers complain that the added weight of the padlocks risks damaging the bridge structures.

Clearing lovelocks off Ponte Milvio, Rome

Clearing lovelocks off the Ponte Milvio bridge in Rome

And whilst lovers persist in locking their love to bridges throughout the peninsula councils fight a losing battle to remove them. In Rome, for example, the council cuts all the padocks off Ponte Milvio each year. Florence council regularly removes padlocks from the Ponte Vecchio. And campaigners have been out with wire-cutters in Venice over the last few months to ensure that the bridges are cleared.

Locals remove lovelocks from the wooden Accademia bridge, Venice

Locals remove lovelocks from the wooden Accademia bridge, Venice

But even removal brings its problems as each padlock must be cut off individually at a cost and without injuring passing traffic or passengers on the river, or canal, below with debris.

The enormity of the problem - a bulldozer being loaded with lovelocks removed from a bridge

The enormity of the problem – a bulldozer being loaded with lovelocks removed from a bridge

So now Venice council is talking of clamping down and fining people for attaching padlocks to any of its 409 bridges, a practice that is already illegal in the city, or buying locks from one of the many hawkers who line the Accademia. And Venice-based campaign group “Moccia digli che basta!” (Tell Moccia enough!) is backing the council to the hilt with one member, Alberto Toso Fei, even coming up with his own posters which I hope he won’t mind me sharing here!

Unlock your love, unlock your heart - Venetian campaign leaflet

Unlock your love, unlock your heart – Venetian campaign leaflet

For his part, Federico Moccia is unrepentant and even considers the padlocks street art. But as the love locks multiply, the councils fight on. Maybe Italy could take a leaf out of Moscow’s book and set up iron love lock trees as a focus for lovers’ demonstrations.

Moscow council provides lovelock trees on bridges across the Vodootvodny Canal

Moscow council provides lovelock trees on bridges across the Vodootvodny Canal

Whatever happens, and whether you think lovelocks are romantic or rubbish, I for one hope that in the end true love wins somehow. But ultimately if you need to prove your everlasting love with a cheap €2 padlock, perhaps you’re doing something wrong?! Just a thought!

Lovelocks inscribed with love - Me and you, a dream that will never end

Lovelocks inscribed with love – Me and you, a dream that will never end

 

This entry was posted in Italy, Lifestyle, Travel tips, Veneto, Venice and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Love-locks – True love or vandalism?

  1. Andrew Hall says:

    In Venice, they should fine the vendors of the locks who search for customers on the bridges and rip them off by selling an overpriced lock and lending a permanent marker.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    My guess is that the locks last longer than the love.

  3. Francis says:

    Didn’t know this problem was so big until your post.(I mean the locks – not falling in love!)

    • lizbert1 says:

      I had heard of it before I arrived in Venice but had never realised how big the problem is, or how much damage it can do. Glad to be spreading the word! PS I’ve never had a problem falling in love though, have you?! ;o)

Leave a Reply